Coco Chanel Jewelry
Coco Chanel Jewelry Revolutionized The Way Women Looked-Forever
Chanel had a rare ability to crystallize around her name and her work an aura of myth , and it persists to this day.
Coco Chanel was the couturiere extraordinare for the most of the twentieth century. Attractive, ambitious, and a genius for self inventions, she became one of the first couturiers to be celebrated as much for her glamorous persona as for her impeccable designs. Raised in an orphanage and virtually self-taught, Chanel, starting from a small shop, quickly built a major fashion house with branches in Paris, Deauville, Biarritz, and London.
“Few women do not know how to wear jewelry,” Chanel once said.
She herself was always abundantly adored with jewels and she considered them to be as necessary to seduction as perfume. Chanel had fabulous jewelry given to her by the Duke of Westminster and by Indian princes, but she admired them alone, preferring to go out with jewelry of her own design. There were two pieces of jewelry that she always wore: a topaz ring given to her when she was sixteen as a talisman by on old women, and a fine pearl necklace given to her by Arthur Capel as proof of his love.
For an expanding clientele, she sought to create dress and fanciful jewelry midway between ostentatious luxury pieces and cheep costume jewelry, and thanks to her example this has become an original and prosperous branch of the fashion industry. At the beginning of the century, Paris was the world capital of luxury jewelry adapted to current styles. The Decorative Arts exhibition of 1925 launched the vogue for color and the return of gemstones; the Palais Galliera exhibition of 1929 marked the triumph of the diamond and its “white note.”
Chanel opened her jewelry workshop in 1924 and entrusted its management to Count Etienne de Beaumont. She made jewelry using imitation stones which she sometimes combined with the real ones. In 1932, as if to defy the economic crisis, she organized with Paul Iribe a spectacular presentation of authentic diamond jewelry. Afterwards, she returned to the production of artificial pieces and called on the talents of such collaborators as Francois Hugo and Fulco di Verdura. Progress in cutting and mounting techniques permitted her technicians, Madame Gripoix in particular, to realize almost all of the projects.
She drew on a variety of exotic, Oriental, and Egyptian sources. The discovery of the intact tomb of Tutankhamun with its fabulous trove took place in 1922. Her preference went to the Reneissance jewels of the Medici, a time when most artists were trained in precious metalwork, and to the sumptuous gems of Byzantium, which led her to ask once, “Why is it that everything i do becomes Byzantine?” She visited the famous treasure in Munich, the richest collection of jewels in Europe, and saw the sparkling mosaics of Ravenna which show the Empress Theodora standing in glory wearing a gold crown adorned with strings of pearls. We know from written sources that the rich citizens of Constantinople sometimes went out wearing gilt-bronze imitations of the real jewels with gold, pearls, diamonds and enamel that they left at home for safe keeping.
Before establishing himself as a goldsmith in New York, the Sicilian duke Fulko di Verdura worked in Paris for Chanel from 1929-1937, first designing fabrics, then jewelry. He revived one of the crafts traditions of his native country and specialized in enamel bracelets.
Francois Hugo, the brother of Jean, director of the hosiery factory at Asnieres, also drew jewelry for her. ” I was bored with the jewels made by the professionals, so i had Francois Hugo draw some of my ideas for earrings, clips, brooches, all sorts of costume jewelry of the kind that today can be seen in the galleries of the Palais Royal and under the arcades of the Rue de Rivoli”.
For Chanel, sparkling diamonds expressed her love for the stars and comets and the lights of the Champs-Elysees. The necklaces glitter on the decollete created with moire ribbons; and diadems, crescent-and star-shaped brooches, ribbons, and fringes sparkle in the hair. The faces of the elegant visitors are reflected in the display cases with indirect lighting that protected the fabulous collection. These gems cut in their natural state, with hidden mounts and clasps, were based on three motifs-knots, stars, and feathers-and could be separated and transformed; for example, a necklace can be changed into three bracelets and a hat brooch.
It was not the jewels themselves that were modern, hinting as they did of the past; it was the way Chanel wore them. When Chanel staged her comeback in 1954 , she offered, in addition to tweed suits, all the sorts of accessories she herself wore every day. Unlike other designers for whom accessories completed a silhouette or furthered a decorative effect, Chanel made individual pieces that were exercises in devising the single perfect item, be it a flower, a hair bow, or a shoe. She did not show a batch of new pieces every season; instead, from time to time she added a new item to her working vocabulary.
Chanel jewelry of the 1950’s and 1960’s, produced by Gripoix and by a new collaborator, goldsmith Robert Grossens, included copies of pieces she had been seen wearing for decades.
After Chanel’s death in 1971, her house lumbered along acquiring a genteel patina. When Karl Lagerfeld signed on as a creative director in 1983, he not only changed the House of Chanel, he changed all of fashion.
The Lagerfeld-for-Chanel high-wire act is most dazzling when it pits the classic against hip, adding another dimension to a story already abounding in paradox. Under Lagerfeld’s direction the reach of Chanel has extended even further, becoming the latest logo coveted and worshiped by teenagers and hip-hop celebrities alike.
How To Identify Authentic Chanel Jewelry
Many Chanel costume jewelry pieces will have markings. Understanding these markings is an important aspect for authentication and will also reveal when the item was made and its history.
Pieces from 1921-1939 were made to complement Chanel’s clothing. As a result, these extremely rare pieces were left unmarked, some pieces are marked only with “France” stamp. In 1939, due to WWII, The House of Chanel stopped operations.
Jewelry made by Chanel Novelty Company in 1941 is quite valuable. The style of Chanel Novelty Company was distinctly different from Chanel’s, and these accessories have their own unique beauty and craftsmanship. Coco Chanel sued them for obvious trademark infringement and won. Chanel Novelty Company was forced to rename to Reinad Novelty Company.
In 1954, Coco Chanel resumed business in her Parisian boutique at 31 Rue Cambon. Many pieces in this time period remained un-stamped, as Chanel jewelry was still being designed as part of an entire couture outfit. However, some jewelry started receiving very basic stamps.
After Coco Chanel’s death, jewelry stamping changed. Some jewelry was also stamped with a copyright, trademark, interlocking CC and made in France stamp.
In the early 80’s, date of production is incorporated into the stamping, so many pieces have a year in the place of “made in France.”
From the mid 80’s to the early 90’s, Chanel dated the jewelry based on collection number. Collection numbers include 23-29.
From 1993 – 2018, the jewelry includes both the season and year. Season markings include A for Fall, P for Spring, C for Cruise collection, and V for continuous line. The numbers represent the 3rd and 4th digit of the year. For example, 95 stands for 1995, and 03 stands for 2003.